2019 Rider Player Nominees Prediction
Published: Wednesday, Oct 23rd 2019, 12:10pm
By: Sheldon Jones (@SheldonJones83)
With the 2019 season coming to a close, there has been quite a few bright spots on the Saskatchewan Roughriders. From a rejuvenated offense including a new franchise QB in Cody Fajardo, to a vigilant defense which has seen Charleston Hughes continue to lead the way statistically, there has been a lot to cheer about in Riderville. I will break down who I think will be in the running for the Rider nominees, who will go on to be in the running to become the Western nominee for the CFL Player Awards.
Coming into this season, I along with a majority of Rider fans were hoping that opening day starting QB Zach Collaros would be the Riders nominee for MOP. This of course would mean that he would have been able to lead the Riders and finally get back to his 2015 form when he was far and away the odds-on favorite to win the award as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Ironically it was Simoni Lawrence of those same Tiger-Cats that ended his time with the Roughriders on the 3rd offensive snap of the season with a dirty headshot as Collaros was sliding. But this award is about the currant Riders and there are actually quite a few choices. This will probably be the most contested award. Potential nominees include: QB Cody Fajardo, DL Charleston Hughes and WR Shaq Evans.
Fajardo has had a remarkable first year as a starter. Thrust into duty when Collaros was injured, Cody struggled early, but found life after he got used to being THE guy. Through 16 games Fajardo has thrown for almost 3900 yards and is less than 20 yards behind Mike Reilly for the league lead. He has thrown 16 TD passes compared to only 8 INT and has an efficiency rating of 103.0. He as also added 610 yards rushing and 10 rushing TD's. Fajardo has effectively managed the games that he has started and has been very good at learning the flow of the game and not making mistakes twice.
Charleston Hughes has had another monster year. This is not a recording. Hughes continues to defy father time and has been one of only a few players that Calgary Stampeders GM John Hufnagel has deemed to be passed his prime, but has continued to succeed at a high level on a new team. He is leading the league in QB sacks with 15 and is on pace to get the highest tackle total in his career. At 35 years old Hughes is playing his best football.
Shaq Evans is having an incredible sophomore season and leads the Riders with 1146 yards in 16 games and has become one of the best receivers in the league. He is great at 50/50 balls and Cody Fajardo has gained a lot of faith in him coming down with those deep contested passes. He may have been premature on declaring himself as the best receiver in the league, but he has shown that he can put up crazy numbers.
MOP's are usually an offensive player as they have a separate award for Most Outstanding Defensive player and the trend continues. Cody Fajardo will be the Riders pick and could have a legitimate shot at making it out of the west due to injuries and inconsistent play with the other top QB's in the West.
My Pick: Cody Fajardo.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player
This is a two horse race between Charleston Hughes and LB Derrick Moncrief. I would also like to include Cam Judge as an honorable mention. He has had a great year and has solidified himself in the Riders LB core. I'm not sure he will get as many votes for MODP, but we will see him take home another award. More on that later. As mentioned above Charleston Hughes is having an incredible year. Derrick Moncrief had a phenomenal start to the season defensively. He was all over the ball and has 67 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 INT's and 1 forced fumble though 16 starts. Early in the season I, along with a lot of CFL fans were thinking that Derrick would be following former Rider Sam Eguavoen down south to the NFL after his steller start. Moncrief fell back to more of a regular contributor as the season let on but he is still one of the best LB in the league. If he had continued the pace this decision would be a lot harder, but Charleston will come out on top. He will be in tough against Willie Jefferson from Winnipeg and Tre Roberson from Calgary for the Western nod.
My Pick: Charleston Hughes.
Most Outstanding Rookie.
Of the players available who meet the requirements to be considered a rookie (must have been on the 44 man roster and not played any regular season or playoff games for any other CFL or NFL team prior to this year) there is only really one clear player to pick. While you could make an argument for DL Charbel Dabire, who stepped in admirably for Zack Evans when he went down with a hip and elbow injury earlier this year, OL Dakoda Shepley will win. The Riders 2018 first round draft pick, Shepley has played in all 16 games this season (started 14) and played very well. He has become an anchor on a much improved Roughrider OL. He will be facing tough competition from Kenny Lawler from the Blue Bombers and the Stampeders Hergy Mayala.
My Pick: Dakoda Shepley
Most Outstanding Canadian
As mentioned above, Cameron Judge is having a great year. He has become a hard hitting, blitz disguising and run stopping LB extrordinaire. Traditionally this award goes to a receiver or running back and if you go back all the way to 2001 only 3 defensive players have been named MOC. The Riders nominee will be Can Judge this year and while Andrew Harris has had an extraordinary year rushing the ball in Winnipeg, his positive test result for banned substances and subsequent 2 game suspension might impact voting.
My Pick: Cameron Judge
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
The OL play for the Riders has been very good this year. They have helped the Roughriders to have the 3rd most rushing yards and a league leading 24 rushing TDs. They have also allowed the second least amount of sacks. Center Dan Clark overcame an incredible single vehicle rollover in which he was thrown from his car and luckily came out with only minor injuries. He was able to make the opening day roster and has not missed any time. As discussed above, Dakoda Shepley has had a phenomenal rookie year and has also played in every game so far. Dariusz Bladek has had a tough year in the sense that he has only played in 11 games and has had numerous holding calls this year. He is still learning and his future is bright. Both Phillip Blake and Brendan Labatte are all star caliber OL but both have missed significant time this season due to injury. Thadeous Coleman and Terren Vaughn both have had good seasons as well but it's going to come down to Clark and Shepley. I'm not sure the Riders will do any double nominees, and due to his remarkable recovery from his accident I am going with Dan Clark. Clark will be in tough against the likes of Derick Dennis from the Stamps and the Bombers Stanley Bryant.
My Pick: Dan Clark
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
One year removed from a remarkable campaign K Brett Lauther took a couple steps back this season. While he has been clutch when needed, as he has two game winning FG's (including the amazing walk off Labour Day winner where he and holder Jon Ryan sprinted to Pick Country and Brett chugged a fans beer) he has been inconsistent and seems to be still affected by his earlier hamstring injury. He's still kicking at 85% and has a CFL long 57 yard FG under his belt. Punter Jon Ryan had a slow adjustment period to re-learn the Canadian kicking game. Jon leads the league in punting average at 50.1 yards per punt and also has the most rouges. Unfortunately having the most singles is not a good thing. Other potential nominees would be Alexandre Gagne who leads the team with 17 ST tackles and returners Marcus Thigpen and Loucheiz Purifoy who each have 1 kick off return for a TD. Surprisingly the Riders special teams has not been that great this season after ST coordinator Craig Dickenson got promoted to HC. Maybe he doesn't have enough time to dedicate himself to the fundamentals. It's a toss up between Lauther and Ryan for who will be the Riders nominee. Whoever it is, they will be up against Calgary punter Rob Maver who is amazing at his ball placement.
My Pick: Brett FUQN Lauther :)